Peter Thiel – American Democracy March 14, 2019 Lecture Transcript

After listening to this lecture, I couldn’t help but transcribe it to make it accessible to more people. I edited as lightly as possible to make sure the speaker’s message is not deviated in any way.

Watch the initial lecture here.

Roberto Unger:          00:00:04          So today we are fortunate to have as our guest, uh, Peter Thiel, uh, Peter Thiel is a venture capitalist but also a student of American life, a proponent of American alternatives and the citizen actively involved in the public life of the United States. Our general plan for the class today is to move broadly from a discussion of the knowledge economy and it’s deepening and dissemination, uh, to a larger discussion of political economy and the political economic alternatives for the United States. And I will then ask Peter to begin by introducing himself please

Peter Thiel:                 00:01:03          Professor Unger, Professor West. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a tremendous honor to be here. I know there’s tremendous range of different topics that, uh, that we can, uh, we can cover. Uh, and uh, I want to, um, I want to say a few things about, uh, maybe to start what I see as sort of the status of, uh, um, science and technology in the, in the political economy and the, you know, the simplistic syllogism I have is that if we have enough growth in our society, we can solve all problems. If we don’t have growth, we can’t solve any problems. Um, and then that the, uh, the, the, the real driver of growth for, um, for the developed countries, US, western Europe, Japan, is, uh, is at the, uh, scientific and technological frontier. And so one of the, one of the questions that we should always ask is, what is the health of that frontier? How, you know, how well are things actually working in these fields? And, uh, sort of talks about the science, you know, we have incredible, yeah,


Ever feel like you’re not good enough?

Today, it’s easier than ever to feel like you’re not good enough. Just go on any one of the social media apps you’re on for your daily dose of, “I’m not good enough.”

I find myself feeling like this quite often. Despite limiting my use of social media, just being around other people in hyper-competitive environments makes me feel this way. 

I’ve learned that recognizing the value I have comes from action. Not from reading, hypothesizing, or romanticizing about the things I want to do. 


I screwed up, big time

Recently I’ve been reading a lot on early career decision making by people I admire, see links in my newsletter.

While reading Paul Graham’s essay, in particular, I realized the source of a lot of my angst over the past few months. I’ll get back to this later.

First, a quick recap for those who aren’t that close to me. At the end of last spring, I was in a committed relationship with someone I cared deeply about, I was working close to full-time at a well-regarded startup in NYC, and I had an internship offer to work in a supply chain operations role at Amazon for the summer.


The Joy of Missing Out

Last night, I visited a night club close to my campus for the first time.

As someone who doesn’t drink for personal reasons, it was beyond an interesting experience.

I didn’t fully understand what people were referring to when they said college is a 4-year long party until last night.

Not to disparage those who find ‘going out’ a fun experience, I found it to be the opposite. After talking to some friends who frequent these social gatherings more often I learned, they don’t either.

Naturally, I asked them why do they do it?


Snapshots vs. Highlights — 2018 in Review

As 2018 comes to an end, I’m at one of the lowest points in my life. 

Yeah, I said it. Life’s not perfect and not everything is up and to the right. 

Despite that, I’d still like to take a moment to recognize I’m incredibly lucky, fortunate, and grateful for the experiences I’ve had and for the relationships I’ve fostered. 

Amongst many people, the following have immensely influenced me: NS, Abhishek Pratapa, Ian Neal, Bradley Mitchell, Chris Sha, Robert Neal, Steven Lu, Rustin Chamberlain, Richard Kim, Chad Oda, Hena Patel, Travis Spaulding, and the RES Family.



Where does impatience come from?

na·ive·té – (n) lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment.

When I’m impatient I feel like I should have something I don’t have right now. It can be a materialistic good, a job, or a physical attribute. It can also be internal attributes like peace of mind, charisma, or humor.


Taking a Semester off pt. 2

Thinking for yourself is unintuitive.

On February 6th, 2018 I tweeted:

Ever since making the change from pre-med to business I’ve been on a non-linear growth trajectory.


Facing Fear

I’ll be honest, I feared to write and share my thoughts publicly.

When you’re expressing your unfiltered experiences to the world who has expectations of how you should live your life you encounter fear.


I lack discipline 

The one thing that matters: doing what I say I’m going to do when I said I would. Surprisingly, it is incredibly difficult to do this without discipline or meticulously choosing the things I want to do.

There are a few things to take into consideration when making this decision:

  • Why should I do X?
  • How long will it take me to do X?
  • What am I willing to give up to do X? (opportunity cost)

As a human being, I naturally lack discipline and focus. Let’s call this lack of discipline and focus resistance. In physics, we learned an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Sometimes it’s difficult to get in motion when you don’t want to.